Friday, August 29, 2014

Why should you teach a dog some tricks?

Strictly speaking, a dog doesn't have to know tricks beyond basic obedience such as sit, stay, lie, and come. But, learning tricks is a great way to bond, learning makes the dog think, and training can alleviate boredom and associated problems.

Activating the dog's mind is a great thing. The more a dog learns the better he or she will learn, and this is a positive process that engages and stimulates the mind.

Besides the bonding process and activating the dog's mind, tricks are entertaining. Some people are afraid of dogs, and a dog that can sit down and wave is certainly less intimidating than one that pulls on the leash in its eagerness to go over and say hello. A trick like sitting down and waving can also solve certain problem behaviors such as jumping on people.

Some people are afraid of certain dog breeds, and a dog able to show off good behavior and some neat tricks can be a great breed ambassador.

Learn to take a bow

When bowing, the dog leans down with chest and elbows touching the ground, but the rear stays up. This is a cool trick that builds on natural dog behavior, and is fairly easy to learn.

Start with your dog standing up. This will be easier if he or she can stand on command.

Hold a treat at the tip of the dog's nose and move it down slowly while saying "take a bow." Hold it close to the dog's body and lure him down until the elbows are on the floor.

Hold the bow for a couple of seconds and use the treat to lure the dog back to standing.

As soon as the bow is complete, praise the dog and give the treat.

Practice several times a day, no more than a few minutes at a time, and before you know it, the command "take a bow" will make your dog bow.

If your dog has trouble doing the entire trick, split it up into smaller increments. Reward him or her for moving in the right direction. You'll get there with some patience.

Does your dog know any tricks? How did you train?

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The magical Kong

Many behavior problems with dogs come from boredom. Modern humans are tied to work and computers to a degree where we're not active enough to keep our dogs happy. They need physical exercise and mental stimulation, and many dogs become outright destructive when they have too little to do.

There are great puzzles for dogs where you can hide treats and the dog has to figure out how to get them out. Feeding time can also be a great activity. It's easy to just pour out some kibble in the bowl and let the dog gobble it down, of course, but a bored dog might benefit from a change in that routine.

The classic Kong can be a dog lover's best friend. Many say, "I have one of those, but my dog doesn't play with it." On its own, it's not all that much fun. You need to stuff it with something.

If you feed your dog kibble, mix some of it with some small treats and something sticky like peanut butter, cream cheese, or canned dog food. Fill the Kong and place it in the freezer. Now it will pose a challenge.

Some dogs will lick the Kong until it's empty, others figure out that they can toss it around to get pieces of food to fall out. Most dogs take at least 20 minutes to empty one.

There are many variations on the Kong theme. There are balls the dog has to roll to dispense food, and cubes that pose more of a challenge. Pick a size and quality suitable for your dog - strong chewers require strong toys.

~ Maria Sadowski ~

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Three good dog training tips

There are many great TV-shows, magazines with dog training tips, blogs, and Facebook posts helping dog owners on the way to well behaved dogs. It's still easy to miss the basics, because we forget that dogs are dogs. 

Here are three good dog training tips that can help you and your best friend achieve whatever it is you want him or her to do.

1. Tell your dog what you want them to do

This sounds like a no-brainer. If I want the dog to sit, I say sit, right! The problem usually starts when the dog does something we don't want. It's easy to say "no," but that doesn't convey what you want your dog to do.

For example, if your dog jumps on someone and you say "no" or "don't jump," it's clear to most humans that it means "do something that's not jumping." A dog doesn't get that. They might try jumping higher, or to the right instead of to the left. In this example, telling the dog to "sit" would give a much better result.

Another example, if your dog is begging for something you're eating and you say "no" or "don't beg" a human would know it means, "Go do something that's not begging for my food." The dog might try begging from the other side or pawing at you. Telling the dog to go lie down can give a much better result.

2. Be consistent

Everyone in the family needs to use the same rules and commands. This is more difficult than it seems. If one family member opens the door when the dog jumps on it and another family member refuses to open until the dog sits, best case scenario the dog will figure out what works with each person. If one family member allows the dog on the sofa, another says, "no" and the third says "down" the dog will be confused.

It is also important to be realistic. It takes time to change a behavior. It's never too late to re-learn, but it might take some time, especially when it comes to things that are natural for dogs to do, such as barking, jumping, and digging.

3. You will get what you reinforce

A philosophy of "do as I say, not as I do" will not work on a dog. If your pooch keeps doing something you don't like, you might have reinforced the behavior without meaning to. For example, if a dog gets scared of something and you comfort them, the perception of the situation being unusual and scary is reinforced. Another good example is when a dog brings you a toy and barks to make you throw it. If you give in, the dog will know that barking is a great way to get play time. The next time when you say no the dog might try barking more, and if you throw the toy again they'll know persistence in barking pays off.

~ Maria Sadowski ~

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Puppy proof your home

Puppies are adorable with their big floppy ears, big feet, and pleading eyes. They're so small, and ready to spend the future with their new favorite human. They also lack all common sense, because they haven't learned anything yet.

When you bring a new dog home, whether it's a puppy or an adult dog, they step into a new world. They need to explore and learn. Puppies do so in same way as babies; they put stuff in their mouth. Most people understand that they should child-proof their home before bringing their new baby home. The same thing goes for puppies.

It's a great idea to get down to puppy level and taking a look around. Crawling around on the floor might feel silly, but you see a lot of things down there you wouldn't think of from the normal human point of view. Look for hanging objects, things that are loose, and low enough for a puppy to get hold of.

Be particularly careful with electrical cords, cleaning products, medications, insect poison, and anything containing nicotine, chocolate, or xylitol. Puppies are smarter than we think, and keeping things in a low cabinet might not be sufficient to keep the dog out of harm's way. Low cupboards might need infant locks to prevent the puppy from getting in.

If you don't already have a tall trash can with a closing lid, it's time to invest in one. Not even adult dogs can resist the temptation of food scraps in a plastic bag, and the trash is irresistible to a puppy.

These tips go for adult dogs too, of course. If you for instance adopt an adult dog from a shelter he or she will be overwhelmed and take some time to settle in. Be patient, and keep your new friend safe.

~ Maria Sadowski ~

Monday, August 25, 2014

Breed spotlight: Kerry Blue Terrier

The Kerry Blue Terrier is an Irish dog breed used for hunting, retrieving, and herding. The breed's history isn't entirely clear, but it is believed that the Irish developed the Kerry as a reaction to nobility using Irish Wolfhounds to protect their hunting grounds from poachers. The Kerry helped the commoners to hunt undiscovered, in silence.

An adult Kerry Blue Terrier is gray, but the puppies are born black. The color fades, and they reach the characteristic grey color when they're around 18 months old. The coat is soft, dense, and wavy, and the dogs shed next to nothing. They still require grooming and should be brushed and trimmed regularly.

These dogs are energetic and require lots of exercise and training. They love to dig and chase, and can be quite silly at times. This is a breed that does well with a job to do. Unless the dogs get enough exercise and mental stimulation they can get bored and invent a task for themselves, which rarely turns out to be something approved by humans.

A typical Kerry Blue Terrier loves people and makes a wonderful family dog, but the breed has a strong hunting instinct. If you want the dog to get along with other dogs and other types of pets, it's wise to socialize the puppy early. They're known for being loyal and affectionate, but stubborn.

~ Maria Sadowski ~

Friday, August 22, 2014

Five quiet dog breeds

Some people love talkative dogs, but others want or need to keep the sound level down. Here are five breeds generally known to be quiet. Some of them are large, so when they do decide to bark it's a mighty sound.

Great Dane

The Great Dane is one of the largest breeds on the planet, and that might be why these dogs don't feel the need to bark often. They're known for being gentle giants with a calm and pleasant nature. Of course, when a Great Dane decides to bark, it's a loud and deep sound.


The Newfoundland is also very large. They're known for being docile, intelligent, and courageous. Most Newfoundlands are extremely loyal, and love children.

Italian Greyhound

Italian Greyhounds are small, cute, and intelligent. They don't always like to do what humans tell them, but barking is rarely an issue.


The Whippet is a race car on legs and few other breeds can keep up, but indoors they're generally calm and love to snuggle. Whippets are known for being quiet indoors. Outdoors is another matter.

Golden Retriever

Golden Retrievers are wonderful dogs who love to make friends and please people. They're not big barkers, but they are active and need exercise, play time, and brain games to stay happy.

Did we miss a quiet breed that you think should have made the list? Tell us in the comments!

~ Maria Sadowski ~

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Fun rescue fundraiser

The overpopulation of cats and dogs in the USA poses a substantial problem, and rescues work long hours to save as many as possible. Many pets come to rescues with medical problems that must be addressed before he or she can leave for a new home, and finding money to treat heart worms, Parvo, and other diseases is a constant struggle. is one way to help your favorite rescue. If you shop from Amazon, you can choose a charity that will get a percentage of your purchases - at no extra cost to you.

Some rescues cooperate with corporations or sales persons, and raise money through getting a percentage of Avon sales or similar. These percentages might seem small when you buy something, but many small sums add up.

Ewenity Farms in Florida recently found a new way to raise money, and I believe few pet lovers can resist it.

An idea like this requires a talented volunteer to make the drawings, of course, but isn't it a wonderful idea? I know I want one. If you choose to buy from Ewenity, you're supporting a great rescue, by the way. They often take on the difficult cases that wouldn't stand a chance to be adopted from a shelter.

What is the best fundraiser idea you've seen?

~ Maria Sadowski ~

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Meet Duke, the new mayor of Cormorant, Minnesota

The new mayor of Cormorant giving
an interview. Image from Buzzfeed.
Cormorant is a small town in Minnesota where the residents recently went to vote. The election for honorary mayor cost $1 to vote in and helped raise money for a local event.

Duke, a 7-year old furry politician, won a landslide victory. Duke's closest competitor owns the Cormorant store, and didn't have half as many votes as Duke. Residents could vote for anyone they wanted, and put Duke's name on the ballot.

The term lasts for one year, and a local pet store has donated his salary: a year's supply of kibble. After the win, Duke celebrated with a long grooming session and a new outfit.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Are your pets prepared for an emergency?

While we hope no one has to experience a hurricane or tornado, these mighty weather phenomena still occur, and every year pets are separated from their humans. Some families search for their lost ones for years. A lucky few are reunited, but most will never see each other again. 

It's fairly easy to prepare for emergencies like these. Here are some tips on how to make sure everyone's okay if the worst would happen.

Make sure pets are micro-chipped, and that the information is up to date.

It's also a good idea to let each pet carry your name, address, and phone number on the collar, just in case. Pets are resilient and many survive extreme weather. Simple things like microchipping and updating information can ensure that you find each other again.

Also, put a decal on your windows so rescue workers will know there are pets in the house.

Make an emergency kit

Keep a pet emergency kit with your family's emergency kit. Plastic zipper bags are great for protecting items. You will need:

  • Extra collar with ID tags and a sturdy leash
  • At least a two week supply of any medication your pet needs
  • Copies of health records, and a recent photo of your pets together with you - this might be invaluable if you're separated and need to prove your pet is really yours
  • Two week supply of pet food and water, and bowls for each
  • First aid supplies. At the least bandages, tape, tweezers, scissors, and antibacterial ointment.
  • Crate with a favorite toy and bedding - this can help reduce stress of being in a new environment
  • Cleaning supplies, poop bags, and similar

Research a safe place to take your pets

If you evacuate your home, do everything you can to bring your pets. Animals behind are often injured, lost, or killed. If it isn't safe for you, it isn't safe for them.

Many emergency shelters don't allow pets, and you don't want to reach your safe haven just to discover some family members aren't welcome. Look for pet friendly emergency shelters close to you. It's also a good idea to make a list of friends and relatives that can shelter your family and pets in case you need to leave the area. Make a list of pet boarding facilities in areas where you might go. Keep a list of all these phone numbers and addresses in your pet emergency kit.

If you stay at home during an emergency

Keep your pets with you in a safe room. The pet should be in a carrier or on a leash, so you have control if the situation changes and you have to leave. Remain calm - if you're anxious, your pet will be anxious.

~ Maria Sadowski ~

Monday, August 18, 2014

Rare Breed Monday: Anatolian Shepherd Dog

Anatolian Shepherd, image from
The Anatolian Shepherd is a livestock guard dog that originated in Turkey over 6,000 years ago. The breeders wanted a dog of the same size and color as the animals they protected, so they would be undetected by predators and have the upper hand.

These dogs are large and strong - weighing up to 150 lbs - and served as the Turkish sheepherders first defense against predators. They were bred to handle a harsh climate and a nomadic lifestyle.

Anatolian Shepherds are known for being loyal, intelligent, independent, and hardy. They're protective, calm, and reserved, and only the family gets to see the dogs' loving nature. They were originally bred to think and act independently, and don't always see the reason in learning to do things on command.

The breed was developed to guard and they have a very strong guard instinct. They are currently being used to help protect endangered Cheetahs. Their presence discourage Cheetahs from taking livestock, which solves the problem of Cheetahs being shot by farmers.

~ Maria Sadowski ~

Friday, August 15, 2014

Track a Cat

Cats are mysterious. They slink out the door, leave, and we have no idea what they do. Best case scenario, they come back. Quite asocial behavior from something that's sort of domesticated and likes to sleep on our laps!

Cat Tracker is a new project that intends to figure out what cats really do, and the best part is that anyone with a cat can participate. To be eligible, the cat needs to spend time both indoors and outdoors, and it needs to carry a small GPS device.

Hopes are that the project will teach us about cats. Where do they like to go? What do they do? Do different types of cats behave differently? How big are their areas? Do all pet cats sneak around and kill birds and small mammals, or is this just a small part of the cat population?

The latter might sound silly, but cats in the USA are estimated to kill around 4 billion birds and 22 billion mammals each year. If only a small portion of cats engage in outdoors killing, those numbers might be much smaller.

This is also relevant since the cat's diet might impact its health, and in the long run the health of its humans. Are wandering cats healthier or sicker than the stay-at-home kitties?

Some cats have been known to share their time between two households, leaving home one in the morning to go to home two, and then back to home one. Others hang out in the neighbor's yard all day, and others yet wander over large areas. The project strives to find out which behaviors are typical, and if there are any patterns.

If you want to know more, or want to participate, visit!

~ Maria Sadowski ~

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Sunshine story: Pit bull carried her injured friend to safety

Joanie and Chachi, image by the
Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department
In July this year, Joanie the pit bull was discovered roaming the streets of Savannah, Georgia. She carried something in her mouth; an injured Chihuahua. From time to time she'd put her friend down and lick his eye, which was badly infected.

The two best friends had clearly been through some adventures, but even though posts of them went viral, no one stepped up to claim them.

The Chihuahua got the name Chachi - the pair are named after the Happy Days characters Joanie and Chachi. His eye couldn't be saved, but he was still delighted to be reunited with Joanie after spending time at the vet's.

The couple made headlines again, as the shelter tried to find a forever home for them - preferably one where they could stay together. Neither seems to care about other dogs, they're so devoted to each other the shelter calls them soul mates.

There are times when wishes come true. They've found a forever home in Florida and will move in during this month.

~ Maria Sadowski ~

Hero cat saves boy from bullies

Sarah, Ethan, and Smudge. Image
There are many stories of animals doing extraordinary things, and British kitty Smudge has joined their ranks. Smudge's human is five years old and was pushed around by bullies when Smudge jumped into action.

The incident occurred outside little Ethan's house where he played with his little brother when some older boys came by. Ethan ignored them and focused on his 2 year old brother. The lack of attention aggravated the bullies. One of the older boys pushed Ethan over.

Ethan's mom, Sarah, had been watching through the window, and she rushed out to help. Smudge was faster, and no one touches Smudge's boy. The cat jumped up on the bully's chest, caused him to stumble backwards, and the gang ran off crying.

Ever since, the cat sleeps by Ethan's door, watching over him.

Smudge has been nominated for the British National Cat of the Year award for his bravery.

~ Maria Sadowski ~

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Pet suite for your furry friend?

Almost 70 percent of American households have pets, and annual spending on them sums up to nearly $60 billion. Pet friendly design is on the rise in all areas of life, but until now residential properties have lagged behind.

That is changing. Many newer apartment complexes have dog-washing facilities, dog runs, trails, parks, and pet friendly interior design. Builders of single family homes have also caught on, and some new home builders offer pet suites with tiled washing stations, pet dryers, built-in bedding, separate laundry, TV, and toy storage. Naturally, the suite can open up to a stimulating outdoors area.

This shows a change in American society as a whole. We're not quite at the level of some countries that have special terms for a pet mom or pet dad, but American pet owners today tend to see their cats and dogs as furry children to a much larger extent than just a decade ago. This redefines what is considered necessary in all aspects of life, and there is an extensive amount of pet foods, collars, bowls, and furniture to choose from.

Pets today can be treated to hotel-style kennels, fitness programs, and foods prepared by private chefs. Beverly Hills Caviar is a splendid example, offering a line of caviar for cats and dogs.

Back to the pet suites. Standard Pacific Homes is one of the nation's largest home builders, and they currently offer pet suites at 27 communities around the country. Prices start at $1,500 and go up as far as your imagination can take you. You can read more about the suites in the Los Angeles Times.

Do you have special accommodations for your pets? If you were to buy a new house, would you consider adding a pet suite?

~ Maria Sadowski ~

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Doggie Cinderella Story

Image from "On the Wings of Angels" Facebook page
Everyone loves a good from rags to riches story, and black lab Lady delivers. The arthritic, elderly dog ended up in a shelter in 2012 when her human died. She was adopted and happy as can be in her new home. That is, until they got another dog. 

According to the family gave her to a friend in Kansas. Lady wasn't willing to stay; she wanted to go home. She has problems walking because of her arthritis, but still managed to limp 30 miles to go home to a family that didn't want her.

After that, neither family claimed her, and she was back in the shelter.

Many stories would end here, with a euthanized dog and angry comments on social media. Fortunately, Lady's story spread over the Internet and reached Helen Rich. Ms Rich is not only heiress to the Wrigley fortune; she is also deeply involved in rescue through the "On the Wings of Angels" initiative.

It didn't take long until Lady sat on a private jet, bringing her home to Ms Wrigley's farm and a large family of rescue dogs. Now she gets all the attention a dog could wish for.

~ Maria Sadowski ~

Monday, August 11, 2014

Rare Breed Monday: Lancashire Heeler

Image from
The Lancashire Heeler - or Ormskirk Terrier - is a rare breed with less than 5,000 individuals worldwide. This is a versatile breed that often works as herder, ratter, gun dog, retriever, and assistance dog.

The breed's history is unknown, but many think it originated when the Welsh Corgi was bred with Manchester Terriers, resulting in a black and tan hard worker. An alternate theory suggest there might be some Dachshund in the Lancashire Heeler as well, and a third theory believes it might be an ancestor of the Welsh Corgi instead of the other way around.

While this breed is rare around the world, it has strongholds in England, Sweden, Holland, and Finland.

Lancashire Heelers have varied personalities - some are lazy and other extremely energetic. Most of them love to participate in all sorts of activities, and the average dog is friendly, alert, energetic, and pleasant. They make great companions and are normally friendly, but can be suspicious when someone enters their territory. Many mail carriers choose to stay out of the Lancashire Heeler's yard.

The dogs do well in apartments, but they are very active and require both exercise and something to dog. They're easy to groom with a short coat in summertime and somewhat plusher in winter.

This breed has a unique characteristic: when content, they draw their lips back and smile.

~ Maria Sadowski ~

Friday, August 8, 2014

Celebrate International Cat Day!

Furry, feline, purring friends have cohabited with humans for thousands of years, maybe even longer than we've had dogs. Since 2002 they also have their own holiday - August 8th is International Cat Day.

At least 500 million cats are domesticated around the world, and in the USA there's around 100 million owned cats. This is good, because cats have all sorts of benefits for humans - besides being good companions and getting rid of rodents.

Cats teach children empathy, can lower the risk for developing allergies, lower blood pressure, prevent stroke and heart disease, lessen the risk for depression, and might even be able to prevent cancer.

Most cats love to play, so you might want to celebrate the day with bringing home a new mouse toy and tossing it around.

If you've been thinking of adopting a cat, today might be a great day. Head down to your local shelter and celebrate International Cat Day with giving one a home. Just remember to pick up some supplies too - before you get the cat. You'll need a collar, a carrier, litter box, kitty litter, bedding, toys, a scratching post, bowls, and food.

When you bring a new friend into your home, give them some time to acclimatize. Both cats and dogs need time to feel at home and get used to a change in environment.

~ Maria Sadowski ~

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Downsides of the retractable leash

Retractable leashes are popular amongst many people, because they're convenient and give dogs a certain amount of freedom. While they can be okay for small or very well behaved dogs, there are some things to watch out for.

With a retractable lesh, you only have minimal control of the dog. Dogs are fast, and it's a matter of seconds before he or she is far enough ahead to run into traffic, bounce on an approaching person, or get into some other form of trouble.

Remember, your dog being sweet and well behaved doesn't mean that every dog - and person - you meet will love him or her. The long leash might also get entangled in trees, bushes, park benches, people, and other dogs.

It is much harder to hold on to the bulky handle of a retractable leash than an ordinary leash, especially if you have a strong dog. And, if you drop it, it might scare your dog. If you keep the loop of a regular leash around your wrist and hold on to it, the dog won't pull it off.

The cords in retractable leashes are generally thin. The cord is strong, but a strong dog who takes off running at full speed can still snap it - or hurt himself when the cord doesn't snap. If the cord breaks you might lose your dog.

A dog pulling on the end of a retractable leash can send an unfortunate wrong signal to other dogs. Your dog is just pulling, but it can look like a sign of aggression, and cause an unnecessary confrontation.

Retractable leashes can be great for well behaved and well trained dogs who walk well without pulling or taking off, but even then it's important to be extra observant since the dog might not be right by your side.

What type of leash do you use, and what do you think of it?

~ Maria Sadowski ~

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Why do cats like to scratch things?

Cats love to scratch things, and if they don't have a scratching post available right where and when they want it, the thing of preference might very well be the expensive living room sofa. Why do they do that?

It is normal for cats to scratch, and they are quite motivated to do so, for a number of different reasons:

  1. Scratching conditions the claws - it removes the dead outer layer
  2. Scratching is a way to mark territory. Cats have scent glands on their paws, and besides leaving  a visual mark, the scratching also leaves a scent
  3. Cats are quite athletic, and scratching helps them stretch the entire body while flexing claws and feet.
Some cat specialists also say the scratching can be used during play, and to communicate dominance. 

Since this is such a big part of cat behavior, it's not realistic to try to prevent cats from scratching altogether. Make sure you have acceptable objects, such as scratching posts, in strategic places. Many posts have catnip under the outer material to make them more interesting to the cats.

In the USA, many choose to declaw their cats - over 30 percent of cats in the US are declawed. Before you make that decision, you should know that declawing cats means more than just cutting nails. Declawing amputates the last joint of each toe.

This is a major surgery that's very painful to the cat and can have serious side effects. Declawing cats is illegal in many countries, because it's considered cruelty to animals.

A better idea is to observe where he or she likes to scratch, and on what. Substitute similar objects that are okay for scratching.

Try to find something that's similar to whatever the cat liked to scratch. Examples of things many cats like include corrugated cardboard, carpeted posts, and logs.

Place the "acceptable" object close to the "forbidden" object, and cover the forbidden objects with something unappealing to cats. For instance, aluminum foil, double-sided tape, cotton balls with perfume, or something else kitty doesn't like.

As your cat gets used to using the acceptable object, you can move it about 1 inch every day to a location more suitable for the human inhabitants. The closer you can keep it to the cat's preferred location, the better.

Keep the unappealing coverings until the cat has used the "right" object in its permanent location for at least a month.

Other ideas that can help with the scratching problem includes trimming the tips of your cat's nails. It's important not to cut too far, and you might want to ask your vet to show you how the first time. Your vet can also show you how to put Soft Paws nail caps on your cat's nails. These are plastic cats that you glue to the end of the cat's nails. They last for about a month.

~ Maria Sadowski ~

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

It is International Assistance Dog Week

Some assistance dogs help with housework
August 3 through August 9 is a very special week - it has been dedicated to Assistance Dogs all around the world. The idea is to celebrate all these hard working and devoted dogs that change and save people's lives every day. 

The goals of the week include honoring and recognizing assistance dogs, raising awareness and educating the general public about assistance dogs, honoring trainers, and of course recognizing heroic deeds performed by assistance dogs.

These fantastic dogs are trained to do everything from calling 911 in case of emergency to guiding a vision impaired handler through traffic. They hear alarms, alert for medical conditions and seizures, fetch items, open and close doors, provide balance, pull wheelchairs, alert for blood sugar problems, and do household chores.

At the core of all this, they offer independence, dignity, and hope. Assistance dogs often make the difference between leading an isolated life and being able to be active.

Many think all assistance dogs are Labradors or Golden Retrievers. These breeds are amongst the most popular, but virtually all breeds are represented, including mixed breeds rescued from shelters. The suitable size depends on the job to be done, and on the handler. A tall handler needing help with balance needs a bigger dog than a smaller person needing help with the same thing.

When you meet a working dog, it's important to leave him or her alone to do their job. They're not there to be petted or talked to. Assistance dogs have the right to follow their humans to all places open to the public, and this includes restaurants and shops. Inconveniences such as allergies are not sufficient cause to turn the dog away. An assistance dog may or may not wear a vest - it's not mandatory.

~ Maria Sadowski ~

Monday, August 4, 2014

Rare Breed Monday: Rafeiro do Alentejo

The Rafeiro do Alentejo - or Alentejo Mastiff - is a Portuguese breed of dog developed to protect herds of cattle. These dogs are very large, and believed to have developed from the ancient molosser type dogs that came to Europe from Central Asia thousands of years ago. 

Rafeiro do Alentejo are known to be self confident, somber, calm, and independent. They are not aggressive, but will bravely protect sheep, cattle, households, and families they feel are under their protection. The puppies mature slowly, and this combined with the independent nature of the breed can make them a challenge when young.

It's important to watch over these dogs as puppies. They tend to over exert themselves with jumping, running, and climbing stairs.

These dogs are affectionate with their family and generally patient with children, but also suspicious towards strangers. They are particularly alert during night time. As with all breeds, proper socialization and training are important. Training takes a lot of patience and consistency; the dogs are eager to receive affection, but developed to make decisions on their own. They won't cater to a human's every whim; they prefer to save their energy for doing real work.

Rafeiro do Alentejo shed heavily twice a year and need thorough brushing at that time. The rest of the year they require little grooming. They don't need excessive exercise, but appreciate a longer daily walk or jog.

In today's world, the breed's traditional job has disappeared, and the dogs are rare even in their home country. They're included in the Foundation Stock Service of the American Kennel Club, and fully recognized by the United Kennel Club.

~ Maria Sadowski ~

Friday, August 1, 2014

Dog of the Month: Australian Cattle Dog

The Australian Cattle Dog was originally developed for driving cattle over long distances across rough terrain. This is a medium-sized, short-coated dog that's sometimes called "Red Heeler" or "Blue Heeler" depending on its color. This name comes from its tendency to move reluctant cattle by nipping at their heels.

Australian Cattle Dogs are intelligent, independent, and filled with energy. If you want a dog willing and able to work all day, this is it. Due to the nature of their job, they are also courageous. A stubborn cow doesn't faze an ACD.

They form a strong bond with their humans and can be protective. Like all working breeds they have an abundance of energy, and do best when they have something to do. Besides being fantastic herders, they do well in many sports.

Australian Cattle Dogs are robust dogs with an average life span of 12-14 years. The world's oldest dog was an ACD, and lived for nearly 30 years.

~ Maria Sadowski ~